Did you know that a Meltonian was one of the most important civil servants in Tudor England?
William Gonson was born in 1482 in Melton Mowbray. His parents were Christopher Gonson and his wife, Elizabeth (nee Trussell). William’s brother, Bartholomew, became the Vicar of Melton Mowbray.
Not a lot is known about his early life, but William became a ship owner and merchant who sailed in government service and later directed shipping movements becoming one of the most remarkable civil servants in the Tudor period.
He was certainly a clerk in the navy storehouse at Deptford, Kent, receiving ropes and artillery pieces (1513) and armorial banners (1514) for ships.
He had already made his fortune through his merchant shipping before he began a naval career. It was as a public servant for the navy that he rose to prominence. He nearly single-handedly managed the Royal Navy for over twenty years.
In 1509, William married his wife, Bennett Benedicta Walter in Deptford, Kent. Together they had six sons: Richard, David, Christopher, Arthur, Benjamin and Anthony as well as three daughters Elizabeth, Avis, and Thomasine. They resided in Thames Street, London, in the parish of St Dunstan-in-the-East.
Gonson was well paid, both from his naval appointments and as one of Henry VIII’s squires of the body, though his great wealth probably came through his commercial activities. In 1525 he was a warden of the Grocers’ Company, and he may by then have owned the ‘great Mary Grace’, which traded to the Greek islands. Thus, in 1530, he was one of twenty-two merchants trading with Candia (Crete); and in circa 1534 his ship Matthew Gonson (300 tons), with his son Richard as captain, sailed with a consort to Chios (where Richard died) and Candia (Crete).
William was finally made an officer of the Navy in 1536 and became the English Vice-Admiral of Norfolk and Suffolk.
The priory, what we know today as the Anne of Cleves pub, was owned by the Lewes Priory and in 1532 they leased the property to William Gonson, brother of the vicar, for 55 years. However, following the dissolution of the Lewes Priory in 1537, the rectory of Melton Mowbray with its tithes from Welby went to Thomas Cromwell and after his execution in 1540 the rectory reverted to the Crown and given to Anne of Cleves as part of the divorce settlement.
In March 1539 foreign merchants’ goods in an unidentified ship of Gonson’s were valued at 50,000 marks sterling (over £33,000), and in 1541 he was assessed for subsidy on £1000. In 1524 he became keeper of the storehouses at Deptford and Erith, Kent, and an usher of the King’s chamber, and for part of the period 1532–7 he handled sums of money totalling more than £15,589. Hence he was concerned with rigging warships, paying money for wages and victualling, purchasing masts, repairing Thames forts, building ships (for example, the Galley Subtile).
In 1539 he was responsible for sending a fleet to bring Anne of Cleves from Calais to Dover for her marriage to Henry VIII. He was vice-admiral—the first in England—of Norfolk and Suffolk from 1536 until 1543, and held courts at Kings Lynn and elsewhere.
William’s son, David Gunson, was admitted to the prestigious Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in 1533 and became a Knight of Rhodes, as the Knights of Malta were still known. His spirited career in that Order is documented in The Book of Deliberations of the Venerable Tongue of England 1523-1567… published in Malta in 1949 by Hannibal P. Scicluna.
His bête noir in the Order was his fellow knight Sir Philip Babington with whom he quarrelled in 1535, and suffered imprisonment as a result. On a visit to England in 1540 it was Babington who informed on him, declaring that Gunson denied that Henry VIII was the Supreme Head of the Church of England and that the King and his supporters were in effect heretics. Gunson was confined to the Tower, had no trial, and was condemned to death under a bill of attainder. He was removed to the King’s Bench prison, Southwark, and on 12 July 1541 he was dragged on a hurdle to St Thomas Waterings, the second milestone from the city, where he suffered a traitor’s death.
The event was chronicled by Charles Wriothesley as follows: “1541. The 12th daie of Julie, one of Mr. Gunston’s Sonnes which was a Knight of Rodes, was drawen from the Kinges Bench to Sainct Thomas Wateringes and there hanged and quartered for treason.”
Following his death, David was posthumously dubbed “The Good Knight”. He was beatified in 1929 as Blessed David Gonson, a martyr for religious principles. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Southwark (London) on 12 July 1541 under the English Act of Supremacy.
William died in 1544, after falling from grace, leaving the Navy disorganised. It took two years for Henry VIII to reorganise control. William Gonson’s son, Benjamin Gonson, became the Treasurer of the Navy and helped Henry regain control.
Benjamin became one of the founding members of the ‘Navy Board,’ responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Navy, which ran from 1546 to 1832. Benjamin Gonson was Treasurer of the Navy when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 and held the post until his death in 1577
Plainly, William Gonson’s responsibilities imposed great strain, particularly with the Anglo-French war (1543–6), and in 1544 (before 5 August, when Benjamin was accounting) he ‘feloniously killed himself’ (LP Henry VIII 20/1, no. 125/7).
A suicide’s body had, by law, to be buried, with a stake through the heart, near local crossroads: Gonson was interred in his parish church, St Dunstans in the East, which suggests that matters were hushed up.
No will or administration has been found. Gonson’s value to his country was recognized, after his death, by the creation of a ‘navy board’ to replace him.
In Blog 37 I looked at the Melton & District Spitfire Fund and how the people of Melton Mowbray and surrounding district pulled together in the latter half of 1940 to purchase a Spitfire fighter at a cost of £5,000.
Between 1941 and 1942, the British Government introduced a similar savings scheme, this time in the concept of National Savings where each region in the country was provided with a savings target to achieve. The target was based on the region’s population, with each level of savings having a class of warship assigned.
This became known as Warship Week, due to its similarities with War Weapons Week – which was a drive to replace the materiel lost at Dunkirk through a savings campaign.
There were a total of 1,178 warship weeks organised across the country during the campaign, involving a total of 1,273 districts. A press announcement quoted the adoption of eight battleships, four carriers, forty-nine cruisers, three hundred and one destroyers, twenty-five submarines, one hundred and sixty-four corvettes and frigates and two hundred and eighty-eight minesweepers.
In early 1942, it was announced the Melton had adopted one the Corvettes. “Terriers of the seas, those are Corvettes. One of them has been adopted by Melton. It is aid that the job of the Corvette is one of the toughest of the war at sea. Melton and District is to raise £120,000 to buy one during Warship Week in March. First in service in the summer of 1940, already they have given a very good account of themselves. The precise details of their engagement has not been published; but officers and men have been mentioned as having received decorations or medals for successful operations against enemy U-boats.”
It was announced in the Melton Times on Friday 6th February 1942 that Melton Warship Week would be held from 7th to 14th March 1942 and it was hoped that Earl Beatty would be able to be present to take the salute.
A community would sponsor a ship through individual savings in government bonds and national savings certificates and Melton Mowbray was no exception. At a meeting of savings group secretaries at the Oddfellow’s Hall on Wednesday 4th February, Mr R Stuart Smith provided an update on the fundraising activities:
“There are now 231 savings groups in Melton and District, 116 of these being in the latter. During the past 6 months, the 50 Melton street savings groups have saved £2,285.00”. He went on to say that from November 1939 to the end of January 1942, people in Melton and district have saved £655,512 or approximately £6,000 per week.
The deputy commissioner, Mr Peter Stevenson also spoke about the coming ‘Warship Week’ and Superintendent R W Stapleton spoke to the meeting about the parade. Joining them was Lieutenant P W Woodriffe RN who gave an interesting talk on the Battle of Jutland which he illustrated with lantern slides.
One of the earliest purchasers of certificates at the central selling centre in the Market Place, was a youth by the name of Teddy Stapleford who bought £24 worth of certificates for the Sydney Street savings group, of which he was secretary.
Six children representing various schools purchased the first certificates towards their group targets.
On 24th April 1942, the Market Harborough Advertiser and Midland Mail published an article detailing the warship weeks fundraising activities for the county. In total, £6,616,247 had been raised, enough to pay for 16 warships. By the end of the campaign, Melton Mowbray & District raised a total of £181,139.00 for their ship.
Target £ Amount
Total £ Raised
Barrow Upon Soar R. D.
Market Harborough & District
Melton Mowbray & District
HM MTB No 102
Market Bosworth R.D.
Ashby de la Zouch
HMS S/M P43
Castle Donington R.D.
Throughout Melton Mowbray and the district, there were a total of 231 savings groups, of which 116 were in the rural area. At a savings committee meeting, presided over by Councillor Oliver Brotherhood, it was revealed that practically every street in the town had a savings group. By February 1942, the groups had raised a total of £655,512 since November 1939, approximately £6,000 a week.
The Melton’s Warship Week was launched in Windsor Street at 8PM on 7th March 1942 by the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Sir Arthur G Hazlerigg Bart, and the Chairman, R W Brownlow Esq, JP, chairman of the Bench of Magistrates with a contingent from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps forming a guard of honour.
it was announced by Mr J Green, Chairman of the bonds Committee, that their target was more than half subscribed with over £76,000 of the £120,000 target.
A parade to launch the campaign took place on Sunday 8th March with members of the HM Forces, together with the Home Guard and Auxiliary Forces. The parade assembled at the Scalford Road car park and was directed by Superintendent R W Stapleton who had directed the 1941 War Weapons Week parade which was over a mile long.
The parade set off at 2:45PM marching down Scalford Road, Norman Street, Bentley Street, Sage Cross Street, Sherard Street, Market Place and High Street to the Wilton Road car park. The following bands also took part in the parade: The Band of the Navy League Sea Cadets, the band of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and the band of the Leicester Air Training Corps.
Taking the salute on the saluting base in the Market Square was Surgeon Lieutenant Commander F T Doleman, RNVR, of Leicester instead of the Earl Beatty. He was accompanied by Air Commodore Sir W Lindsay Everard, the Duchess of Rutland, Mrs P Cantrell Hubbersty and Mrs A E Burnaby.
As the crowd of spectators made their way to the Wilton Road car park for a drum head service, a mounted Policeman’s horse mounted up, narrowly missing the Chief Constable of Leicestershire, Captain C E Lynch-Blosse, but Alderman T Sarson received slight injuries to his leg in the incident.
HMS Samphire was built by Smiths Dock Company, in South Bank-on-Tees, and was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 30th June 1941. Shortly after entering service, from the 15th – 21st July 1941, Samphire took part in anti-submarine exercises off Tobermory with a Dutch submarine HrMs O 10, commanded by Lt J H Geijs Royal Netherlands Navy, and other Royal Navy vessels including HMS Brora, HMS Cumbrae, HMS Flotta, HMS Islay, HMS Le Tiger, HMS Romeo, HMS St Mary’s & HMS Wells
Samphire was tasked with convoy escort operations between Liverpool and the Mediterranean Sea and assigned to the 36th Escort Group commanded by Captain F J Johnnie Walker of the Western Approaches Command Group.
On the 30th July 1941, Samphire was part of the escort group for convoy OG.70, Outbound from the British Isles to Gibraltar. This convoy consisted of 20 merchant vessels and 9 escort vessels including Samphire.
On approach to Gibraltar, HMS Samphire along with 7 other Navy escort ships parted company with OG.70 to join the northbound convoy HG.70
Convoy HG.70 was an allied trade convoy of the Homeward from Gibraltar series and comprised of 25 ships sailing from Gibraltar on 9th August 1941.
Convoy HG.76 was an allied trade convoy of the Homeward from Gibraltar series and comprised of 32 ships sailing between 19th and 23rd December 1941.
It whilst escorting convoy HG.76 when at 06.15Hrs on 19th December 1941, that German U-boat U-108 fired a spread of two torpedoes at the convoy west of Lisbon. A flash and a large column of black smoke was observed on one ship and two detonations were heard. The steamer Ruckinge was damaged by one torpedo and the survivors were rescued by the Steamer FINLAND and sloop STORK. The Ruckinge was later shelled and scuttled by HMS Samphire (K 128) (LtCdr F.T. Renny, DSC, RNR).
A couple of days later on 21st December 1941, north of the Azores, Samphire successfully released depth charges with the British sloop Deptford resulting in the sinking of the German submarine U-567 in the North Atlantic northeast of the Azores resulting in the loss of all 47 men on board the U-567.
On 8th November 1942, she was escorting USS Leedstown (AP-73) from the Mediterranean after she had been attacked by German aircraft, which hit the Leedstown with an aerial torpedo in the stern the day earlier.
At 12:55Hrs on 9th November, German aircraft attacked again with 3 bombs straddling the Leedstown. Although Samphire managed to shoot down one attacker, vibration from the bombs exploding added further damage to that caused the night before.
The Leedstown was again attacked at 13:10Hrs, this time by 2 torpedoes which struck her amidships, exploding with tremendous force. The ship started to settle with an increased starboard list and when the midships were about 3 feet under water, the decision to abandon ship was taken.
HMS Samphire was standing by and assisted in the rescue of the survivors from the Leedstown. At 14:30Hrs, Commander Cook had gone over the side of Leedstown and was rescued about an hour later. Samphire rescued 104 survivors who she put ashore the following morning at Algiers.
During the early hours of 12th November 1942, HMS Tynwald was at short notice, ready to sail from 04:45Hrs in anticipation of a dawn Axis air raid. Tynwald was part of a task force sent to capture an airfield near Bougie (modern Béjaïa) 100 miles east of Algiers. At the centre of the force were infantry landing craft, and the covering force included the cruiser HMS Sheffield, the monitor HMS Roberts, and fourteen other supporting vessels.
Just 30 minutes later, Tynwald was hit by 2 torpedoes launched from the Argo, an Italian submarine commanded by Lt Pasquali Gigli resulting in Tynwald settling rapidly in 7 meters of water and 10 of her crew killed. The survivors were rescued by HMS Samphire and HMS Roberts.
The Leicester Evening Mail published the following article on the 4th December 1942:
“Melton Corvette saved Melton Man. After being in the sea for two hours, Able Seaman Horace E Main, of Salisbury Avenue, Melton, was picked up by Melton’s adopted corvette HMS Samphire.
As soon as he got on board, he was asked by members of the crew where he lived, and when he told them he was asked to convey to the Melton people the ship’s company’s thanks for all they had done for them. Able Seaman Main was given a jumper to wear which came from Melton. Able Seaman Main says the finest sight he had ever seen was the corvette bearing towards him as he was clinging to a float.”
On 14th December 1942, Samphire assisted in the rescue of nine survivors from the British merchant ship Edencrag, which had been torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-443 west of Algiers.
Samphire was torpedoed and sunk on 30 January 1943 off Bougie, Algeria by the Italian submarine Platino. Samphire was escorting convoy TE-14 which was taking part in the North African campaign. The captain, two officers and 42 of the ship’s crew perished.
On the 7th November 1947, the Leicester Daily Mercury reported the following: “Melton’s ship no longer – A letter from the Admiralty intimates that HMS Samphire, the ship that Melton adopted, is now out of commission, and the association between the crew and the town is thus ended.
Melton Mowbray was preseneted with a commemorative shield in recognition of their adoption of HMS Samphire. This shield is now on display in the Royal British Legion Office in Melton Mowbray.
Following the publication of my Melton’s Warship blog, I was contacted by an individual who lives on the Kirby Lane Fields Housing Estate in Melton Mowbray who told me “When we moved in to our house back in 2000 the site forman told us all the roads on the estate were named after wild flowers. However, the site manager told us they were named after WWII Corvettes. I wonder who was correct as I know there was an HMS Celandine.”
So naturally, I did a little bit of investigation into the street names from that estate and yes they are all flowers but out of the 16 street names, 13 are used by the Royal Navy as Ship names, with 12 in the Flower Class Corvettes.
There is 1 name connected to a WW1 Acacia Class Minesweeping Sloop and 3 others where I can find no connection to RN ships at all.
Anemone Close – HMS Anemone (Flower Class Corvette) launched 22nd April 1940 – Sold in November 1949. Resold on 3 October 1950 to Norway as buoy tender Pelkan, 1951 rebuilt as whale catcher, sold December 1963, renamed Østfold, Scrapped 1 November 1964.
Bluebell Row – HMS Bluebell (Flower Class Corvette) launched 24th April 1940 – Torpedoed and sunk on 17th February 1945 by U-711 off the Kola Inlet at 69-36N, 35-29E.
Campion Place – HMS Campion (Flower Class Corvette) launched 20th June 1941 – Sold on 20 April 1947 and scrapped at Newport.
Celandine Drive – HMS Celandine (Flower Class Corvette) launched 28th December 1940 – Shared sinking of U-556 on 27th June 41. Sold in October 1948 and scrapped at Portaferry.
Clover Drive – HMS Clover (Flower Class Corvette) launched 30th January 1941 – Sold on 17 May 1947 as mercantile Cloverlock. Resold to People’s Republic of China as mercantile Kai Feng.
Coltfoot Way – HMS Coltsfoot (Flower Class Corvette) launched 15th May 1941 – Sold in 1947 as mercantile Alexandra.
Cowslip Drive – HMS Cowslip (Flower Class Corvette) launched 28th May 1941 – Sold in July 1948. Scrapped in April 1949 at Troon.
Foxglove Avenue – HMS Foxglove (Acacia Class Minesweeping Sloop) entered service 14th May 1915 – Sold for scrapping on 7 September 1946. She was scrapped at Troon, Scotland
Harebell Drive – HMS Harebell (Flower Class Corvette) Cancelled on 23 January 1941. Pennant K202
Heather Crescent – HMS Heather (Flower Class Corvette) launched 17th September 1940 – Sold on 22 May 1947 and scrapped at Grays.
Honeysuckle Way – HMS Honeysuckle (Flower Class Corvette) launched 22nd April 1940 – Sold in 1950 and scrapped in November 1950 at Grays.
Marigold Crescent – HMS Marigold (Flower Class Corvette) launched 4th September 1940 – Torpedoed and sunk on 9 December 1942 by the Aviazione Ausiliara per la Marina while escorting convoy KMS.3Y off Algiers at 36-50N, 03-00E. 40 crew were killed.
Orchid Close – HMS Orchis (Flower Class Corvette) launched 15th October 1940 – Sank U-741 single-handed 15 August 44. Mined and heavily damaged on 21 August 1944 off Courseulles-sur-Mer. Beached on Juno Beach and declared a total loss.
Camomile Road, Teasel Drive and Trefoil Close no connection to RN Ships as far as I can tell.
Sadly, there is no street named Samphire after Melton’s Warship. So was this a deliberate naming strategy by Melton Borough Council to name the streets after the Flower Class Corvettes in honour of the towns connection, or was it just a coincidence. If theye were named after the Corvettes, it is a shame there is no street named Samphire!
Mowbray Lodge which used to be on Dalby Road opposite Warwick Lodge was built to the same design as Wicklow Lodge on Burton Road. The Mowbray Lodge was a hunting box for several seasons until 1898 when it was purchased by the Vicar of Melton, Reverend Richard Blakeney M.A. and his wife.
For several years, prior to the Vicar taking ownership, it was home to Captain Gordon Wilson and his wife Lady Sarah, whilst they were hunting with the Quorn Hounds. Lady Sarah was the youngest daughter of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, John Spencer-Churchill. As a member of the Churchill family, she was aunt to Winston Churchill.
Their son, Randolph Gordon Wilson was born at Mowbray Lodge and was baptised by the Reverend Blakeney at St Mary’s Church on Sunday 26th February 1893. He later went on to serve in the Royal Naval Air Service during WW1 and later the Royal Air Force following the merge of the RNAS and Royal Flying Corps.
Following the sale of Mowbray Lodge, the Wilsons moved into Brooksby Hall in 1897 where they stayed until 1904.
Gordon Wilson joined the Royal Horse Guards from the Militia in May 1887, becoming a Lieutenant in December 1888 and a Captain in 1894.
He took part in the Boer War serving as Aide-de Camp to Colonel Robert Baden-Powell who was the Commanding Officer of the Frontier Forces at Mafeking from August 1899 to May 1900 and after appointment as Major General South Africa from May 1900 to July 1900.
He was present at the defence of Mafeking, taking part in the actions of 26th December 1899 and 12th May 1900. He was twice Mentioned in Despatches in the London Gazette on the 8th February 1901 and the 10th September 1901.
Lady Sarah went out to South Africa to join him and in 1899 was recruited by Alfred Harmsworth to cover the Siege of Mafeking for the Daily Mail after one of the Mail correspondents, Ralph Hellawell, was arrested by the Boers as he tried to get out of the besieged town of Mafeking to send his dispatch. Having thus become the first woman war correspondent, Baden-Powell asked her to leave Mafeking for her own safety after the Boers threatened to storm the British garrison.
This she duly did, and set off on a madcap adventure in the company of her maid, travelling through the South African countryside. when she was about 15 miles from Mafeking, she attempted to send back a message by carrier pigeon. The pigeon was not very well trained, and instead of flying back to Mafeking, it went and landed on the rooff of the Boer Commanders house who duly acertained who she was and where she was. She was captured by the enemy and taken prisoner before being returned to the town in exchange for a horse thief.
When she re-entered Mafeking she found it had not been attacked as predicted. Over four miles of trenches had been dug and 800 bomb shelters built to protect the residents from the constant shelling of the town.
On 26 March 1900, she wrote: “The Boers have been extremely active during the last few days. Yesterday we were heavily shelled and suffered eight casualties … Corporal Ironside had his thigh smashed the day before, and Private Webbe, of the Cape Police, had his head blown off in the brickfields trenches.”
Although death and destruction surrounded her, she preferred not to dwell too much on the horrors of the siege. She described cycling events held on Sundays and the town’s celebration of Colonel Baden-Powell’s birthday which was declared a holiday. Despite these cheery events, dwindling food supplies became a constant theme in the stories which she sent back to the Mail and the situation seemed hopeless when the garrison was hit by an outbreak of malarial typhoid. In this weakened state the Boers managed to penetrate the outskirts of the town, but the British stood firm and repelled the assault. The siege finally ended after 217 days when the Royal Horse and Canadian Artillery galloped into Mafeking on 17 May 1900.
He was promoted to Major in January 1903, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in October 1907 and took command of his regiment in October 1911 as Lieutenant-Colonel.
On the outbreak of World War One, Gordon left for France as Lt. Colonel in the Royal Horse Guards.
Lady Sarah also went to France and was running a hospital for injured soldiers in Boulogne. It was at this hospital that Major Tony Markham who lived at The House, Melton Mowbray died after being wounded in action.
It was whilst she was at Bolougne that she heard that her husband Gordon had died from wounds received in action, on 6 November 1914. Gordon is buried in a CWGC grave at Zillebeke Churchyard in Belgium. See his CWGC recordfor more details.
Christ Church in Wesham Lancashire is the Church where my parents married back in 1956 and also where there is a memorial to my Uncle, Frank Coulburn who was killed at Dunkirk in 1940 serving as a Sapper with the No 9 Field Company Royal Engineers.
As you walk down the path at the side of the Church and enter the cemetery through the gap in the wall, you will see a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone on your left hand side commemorating Reverend P T Jefferson a Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Chaplain of HMS Nightjar.
Percy Taylor Jefferson was the son of Mary Elizabeth Taylor and Matthew Jefferson, a Clerk in the Steelwork company. He was born 17th November 1892 in Middlesborough and was baptised 30 September 1893 in Linthorpe Yorkshire. He was the eldest of 6 children, his siblings being: Hilda (1895); Lilian (1896); May (1900); Arthur (1904) and Gladys (1906).
In 1901, the family were living at 9 Leamen Terrace, Linthorpe Road, St Barnabas Middlesborough where Percy attended the Victoria Road Juniors (Boys) School, from 3rd Oct 1899 to 28th Sept 1900. He later attended the Middlesborough High School for boys, admitted 9th Jan 1906, left 22nd July 1910.
By 1911, the family had moved to 15 Orchard Road, Linthorpe.
Prior to the outbreak of the War, Percy was a second term theological student at St. Augustine College, Canterbury in Kent.
Not long after the outbreak of World War One, at some point between 27th April and 5th July 1915 he enlisted into the Army as a Private (Number 450) with the Royal Army Medical Corps (Territorial Force) serving with the 1/1st South Eastern Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance in Canterbury.
He set sail from Liverpool in September 1915 aboard the HMT Olympic which after completing a few Atlantic runs, she had been requisitioned by the British Government for use as a troop transport vessel. Her designation was changed from R.M.S (Royal Mail Steamer) to H.M.T (Hired Military Transport, often falsely interpreted as ‘His Majesty’s Transport’) at this time.
She was given interesting changes to help fulfil this role, including a 12 pounder naval cannon mounted on a platform on the forecastle deck, a 4.7 inch naval cannon on a platform on the poop deck, extra lifeboats on the aft well deck and a canvas screen/platform atop the bridge.
Olympic was bound for Gallipoli where Percy would be assigned to stretcher bearer duties at a Field Ambulance advanced dressing station on the Cape Helles front as part of the 42nd Division. The South Eastern Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance landed at ‘W’ Beach, Cape Helles on the 7th October 1915.
In October 1915, he was evacuated from Gallipoli due to ill health to St David’s Hospital in Malta where he stayed until December 1915. St David’s Hospital was a tented hospital for 1,000 beds constructed near St Andrew’s barracks, close to St Paul’s Hutments and All Saints Convalescent Camp. The rocky ground for the large hospital marquees was levelled by the engineers and roads, paths, gardens, kitchens, ablutions, baths and stores were constructed. The camp commandant was Major Charles Henry Carr RAMC. On 25th July 1915, St David’s Hospital was ready to receive 500 patients. By August, it had become fully equipped for 1,000 beds. Initially, St David’s admitted mild surgical and convalescents, but like all other hospitals it was soon busy with the ever increasing stream of dysentery and enteric cases.
Following his recovery, Percy’s next assignment saw him serve with the Field Ambulance on garrison duties on the Suez Canal as part of the 42nd Divisions 3rd Dismounted Brigade. From December 1916 he was assigned to the Army Service Corps Mechanical Transport base at Alexandria whilst awaiting his commission.
On 27th Aug 1917, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant (492063) in The Army Service Corps. He served with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and the Egyptian Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli, Palestine & Egypt. He was awarded the 1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal and was Mentioned in Despatches whilst serving as a Lt. in Palestine.
On 4th Oct 1917, Percy was admitted to No 19 General Hospital at Alexandria with enterica. He was admitted for 53 days, being discharged on the 25th Nov 1917 to the No 1 Convalescent Home.
After the cessation of hostilities, he returned to education studying at St. Edmund’s Hall, Oxford, where he obtained a BA in 1921, and an MA in 1926.
In July 1920, Percy married Constance Eve Ridsdale at Glaisdale, Whitby, North Yorkshire.
He was a Candidate Scholar at the Lincoln Theological College and was made a Deacon by the Bishop of Lincoln for Colonies. He was ordained Priest in 1922 by the Bishop of Kimberley, he was Curate of St Paul, De Aur until 1924; Rector of Prieska and Upington until 1928. Beaconsfield 1928–32; Christ Church, Fordsburg 1932–35 (South Africa), then Vicar of St Andrew, Bugthorpe in the Archdiocese of York 1935.
Percy, his wife Eve, and their 3 children Charles, Jessie and Hilda are listed on a shipping passenger list, departing Beira in Mozambique on the Gloucester Castle ship operated by the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company Ltd, arriving at Southampton on the 3rd May 1931. On the 16th Sept 1931, the family left London, returning to Beira in Mozambique, aboard the ship Durham Castle, again operated by the Union Castle shipping company.
On 31st May 1935, the Leeds Mercury reported that the Ven. Archdeacon A C England tonight instituted the Rev. Percy Taylor Jefferson to the vicarage of St Andrews at Bugthorpe. He stayed at Bugthorpe until 1941 when he left to undertake welfare work at a large shadow factory in the South of England.
British shadow factories were the outcome of the Shadow Scheme, a plan devised in 1935 and developed by the British Government in the buildup to World War II to try to meet the urgent need for more aircraft using technology transfer from the motor industry to implement additional manufacturing capacity. The term ‘shadow’ was not intended to mean secrecy, but rather the protected environment they would receive by being staffed by all levels of skilled motor industry people alongside (in the shadow of) their own similar motor industry operations.
On the 3rd September 1943, Percy enlisted into the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a Temporary Chaplain. He was assigned to HMS Nightjar at Royal Naval Air Station Inskip. He lived with his wife Eve at Mowbreck Hall, Kirkham, Lancashire.
HMS Nightjar (Inskip) was the home of No.1 Operational Training Unit and as a result many Fleet Air Arm (FAA) squadrons were based there for a few weeks, working up, prior to embarkation.
Their son Charles Edmund Hugh Jefferson was also serving in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a Lieutenant on HMS Stalker (D91) a CVE escort carrier. Between the 15th & 27th August 1944, Stalker, equipped with No 809 Sqn FAA operating Seafires joined Task Group 88 as part the covering force for the allied invasion of Southern France as part of Operation ‘DRAGOON’.
Back home in Lancashire, Percy was admitted to the RAF Hospital at nearby RAF Weeton where he died on 31st October 1945. He is buried in grave 416, Christ Church Churchyard, Wesham Lancashire and his grave is marked by a CWGC Portland Headstone.
Eve must have been devastated to lose both her husband and son in just over a year whilst serving their country in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. The same goes for the daughters Jessie and Hilda who lost a brother and father.
The personal inscription that was chosen by the family to be engraved on Percy’s headstone is “ALSO IN MEMORY OF HIS SON HUGH. LT. (A) R.N.V.R. KILLED IN ACTION 26. 8. 44 BURIED AT ST. REMY. FRANCE”
Both Percy and his son Charles are commemorated on the WW2 memorial tablet in Christ Church Wesham along with my Uncle Frank Coulburn and 20 other villagers who loost their lives during WW2.
I have been interested in war memorials for just short of 40 years now and this stems back to when I was a young cadet of around 13 or 14 years of age with No 967 Kirkham and South Fylde Sqn Air Training Corps.
I can’t remember the exact year, but as I said previously, I must have been around 13 or 14 when I was given the honour of laying a wreath on Remembrance Sunday at my local war memorial at Wesham in Lancashire.
Believe me, it was an honour, as on that memorial is the name of my Uncle, Frank Coulburn, who was a Sapper serving with No 9 Field Company, Royal Engineers during WW2 and he was killed at Dunkirk on 2nd June 1940, last seen on the beach during the evacuation. Sadly, his body has never been recovered, or if it was, never identified and as such he has no known grave.
On what I think was the same year, I was also part of the Guard of Honour at the Kirkham War Memorial, being one of four cadets, one stood on each corner of the memorial during the wreath laying ceremony. The town Mayor and other local dignitaries laid the wreaths whilst us cadets stood there with our heads bowed and our Lee Enfield .303 rifles in the arms reversed position in an act of remembrance, a pose that is quite common with figures of military personnel on war memorials, just like the one at Wesham.
You are all undoubtedly aware of the sayings/speeches that are made at times of Remembrance and these are generally referred to as The Kohima Epitaph and The Exhortation.
The Kohima Epitaph is the epitaph carved on the Memorial of the 2nd British Division in the cemetery of Kohima (North-East India). It reads:
‘When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.’
The verse is attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958), and is thought to have been inspired by the epitaph written by Simonides to honour the Greeks who fell at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC.
The Exhortation is an extract from a poem written in mid-September 1914, just a few weeks after the outbreak of World War One, by Robert Laurence Binyon called “For the Fallen”.
The Exhortation is read out during Remembrance Ceremonies, immediately after the Last Post is played, and leads into the Two Minute Silence.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old, Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them.”
Response: “We will remember them.”
But how do we remember them?
Away from the Remembrance Ceremonies, everyone has their own way of remembering their fallen relatives and one method, especially for the families of those who never returned was, and still is today, via the erection of war memorials.
What is a war memorial though?
A war memorial can be any tangible object which has been erected or dedicated to commemorate war, conflict, victory or peace. They can also commemorate casualties who served in, were affected by or killed as a result of war, conflict or peacekeeping; or those who died as a result of accident or disease whilst engaged in military service. This can also include civilian casualties and not just service personnel.
War memorials can come in many different shapes and sizes, such as:
Boards, plaques and tablets (inside or outside a building)
Roll of Honour or Book of Remembrance
Community halls, hospitals, bus shelters, clock towers, streets etc
Church fittings like bells, pews, lecterns, lighting, windows, altars, screens, candlesticks, etc
Trophies and relics like a preserved gun or the wreckage at an aircraft crash site
Land, including parks, gardens, playing fields and woodland
Additions to gravestones (but not graves)
I suppose you could say that one of the first national war memorials in this country was The Royal Hospital at Chelsea. In 1681, responding to the need to look after these soldiers, King Charles II issued a Royal Warrant authorising the building of the Royal Hospital Chelsea to care for those ‘broken by age or war’.
Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to design and erect the building and in 1692 work was finally completed and the first Chelsea Pensioners were admitted in February 1692 and by the end of March the full complement of 476 were in residence.
War memorials can be found in just about every town or village across the country. There are so many First World War memorials in this country that it is easy to stop seeing them. For the majority of people, they just walk past them as if the memorial is so much part of everyday street furniture without even giving it a second glance. Even direct descendants of those named on them don’t pay that much attention to them.
Probably the most iconic war memorial in this country, and the one that most individuals are familiar with is The Cenotaph, located on Whitehall in Central London. It is the countries national memorial to the dead of Britain and the British Empire in the First World War and conflicts that have taken place since and is the focal point of the annual service of remembrance.
The Cenotaph was designed by Sir Edward Lutyens OM, the foremost architect of his day and was responsible for many of the commemorative structures built in the years following World War One by the Imperial War Graves Commission, now known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Another famous war memorial that people will be aware of, but not necessarily associate it as a war memorial is another of London’s iconic landmarks, Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square. The monument was constructed between 1840 and 1843 to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It stands, 169 feet 3 inches tall from the bottom of the pedestal base to the top of Nelsons hat.
There are four bronze panels around the pedestal each cast from captured French guns. They depict the Battle of Cape St Vincent (14th February 1797), the Battle of the Nile (1st – 3rd August 1798), the Battle of Copenhagen (2nd April 1801) and the Battle of Trafalgar (21st October 1805), all battles in which Nelson took part in.
Prior to the 1890s, the majority of war memorials across the country only commemorated aristocrats, the rich and famous who became officers of the British Army and Royal Navy.
However, in 1899 and the outbreak of the Second Boer War (1899-1902), regular soldiers were in short supply and volunteers stepped forward into the breach by joining the local volunteers Militia.
Thousands of these so called ‘amateur’ Militia volunteers were killed during the campaign, and those that returned home following the end of the war, were hailed as heroes as they had survived conflicts like the Sieges of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley.
Consequently, thousands of Boer War memorials were erected up and down the country ranging from brass plaques to large elaborate sculptures in town centers. Whatever their design, they all had the same purpose of commemorating not only those Officers from well to do families but also the ‘common’ soldier that had made the ultimate sacrifice from either being killed in action or dying of illness contracted whilst serving in South Africa.
One such example of a Boer War memorial can be found in my local Parish Church of St Mary’s here in the market town of Melton Mowbray where I live.
On Saturday 20th December 1902, The Grantham Journal published the following article in their newspaper:
“Honour to Whom Honour is Due”—The memory of Meltonians who sacrificed their lives in the South African war is to be perpetuated by a splendid brass tablet, suitably inscribed, which is to be placed in the Parish Church, probably the nave. The names of the seven who fell, and which will appear on the tablet, are Privates John Lowe, Wm. Manchester, Wm. Redmile, and John Henry Green, Troopers Edward Dobson and Ernest Alfred Baker, and Bugler Albert Edward Peasgood, of Oakham, a member the Melton Volunteer Corps. The matter is in the hands of Mr. Willcox, who has collected most of the subscriptions for the purpose, a ready response being made in this respect. Work is in the hands of Messrs. J. Wippall and Co., of Exeter and London, and the tablet, which will be of an ornamental character, will be mounted a polished slab of black marble. The Vicar has kindly agreed to forego the fee of ten guineas which is entitled in respect of fixing of the tablet in the Church. It is expected that it will be ready towards the end of the month of February, and it will be unveiled at a special service arranged for the occasion, which will be attended by the local Volunteers and Yeomanry. A special effort is being made among the Volunteers in the matter of subscriptions the fund for memorial, and Sergt. J. Sutherland has undertaken to receive the same.
A special unveiling ceremony for the dedication of the memorial was held on Sunday 15th March 1903.
The brass plaque is described as “Containing a cross with red infill, encircled by a crown within nowy head & a cross at each corner fixing point, all infilled in black. An engraved single-line, inwardly radiused, at each corner, forms a border around inscription area, with a decorative open termination at top centre within nowy head.”
THIS TABLET WAS PLACED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION IN MEMORY OF THOSE FROM THIS TOWN WHO DIED SERVING THEIR COUNTRY IN SOUTH AFRICA PRIVATE JOHN LOWE DIED OF ENTERIC AT LADYSMITH 6th MARCH 1900 AGED 23 YEARS BUGLER ALBERT EDWARD PEASGOOD A NATIVE OF OAKHAM DIED OF ENTERIC AT KROONSTAD 27th MAY 1900 AGED 19 YEARS PRIVATE WILLIAM MANCHESTER DIED OF THROMBOSIS AT SPRINGFONTEIN 12th DECEMBER 1900 AGED 28 YEARS TROOPER EDWARD DOBSON KILLED IN ACTION NEAR WELVERDIERED 24th DECEMBER 1900 AGED 20 YEARS TROOPER ERNEST ALFRED BAKER DIED OF ENTERIC AT KROONSTAD 1st JUNE 1901 AGED 18 YEARS PRIVATE WILLIAM REDMILE DIED OF ENTERIC AT ALIWAL NORTH 14th SEPTEMBER 1902 AGED 18 YEARS PRIVATE JOHN HENRY GREEN DIED 12th SEPEMBER 1902 UPON HIS RETURN HOME FROM DISEASE CONTRACTED IN SOUTH AFRIVA AGED 22 YEARS
“WHEN THE PEOPLE OFFERED THEMSELVES WILLINGLY” “HONOUR TO WHOM HONOUR IS DUE”
As part of the unveiling ceremony, a parade of the Melton Mowbray volunteers took place including the Melton and Gaddesby troops of the Leicestershire Imperial Yeomanry, twenty-nine members of the Oakham detachment of “N” Company of the Leicestershire Volunteers, under Sergt. J. C. Kernick and the Church Lads Brigade and a regimental band from Leicester was also in attendance.
A large congregation assembled in the Church and the unveiling ceremony was performed by General Brocklehurst who raised a toast to the King and an appropriate dissertation was also read by the vicar, Rev R Blakeney.
After the unveiling, the Last Post, and the anthem ‘Blest are the departed’ by Spohr was sung by the choir.
Another example of a Boer War memorial is that which can be found in the Town Hall Square Leicester on the corner of Every Street & Horsefair Street. This memorial takes on a different for to the plaque in St Mary’s and is a low granite wall with bronze plaques containing the names of 315 of Leicestershire’s men who died in the war. It is made up of a central squat pedestal with bronze kneeling angel in flowing robes holding sword and olive branch, showing Peace. Figures of grief & war are also mounted on the end pillars.
During my travels across the UK, and even overseas, when I come across a war memorial, I will always pay it a visit, read the inscription and take photographs of it. There are plenty of the memorials that are lovingly cared for and maintained by local authorities and communities. Sadly though, this is not always the case as it was slowly dawning on me that a lot of these memorials were either neglected or suffering from effects such as weathering, pollution, and in some cases vandalism.
Coming across quite a few memorials that, shall we say were not in the best of conditions for whatever reason, I decided several years ago to join the War Memorials Trust as a member and also as a Regional Volunteer to ‘do my bit’ and try to ensure that “We will remember them” and the individuals named on the memorial inscriptions are “Not Forgotten.”
Throughout the United Kingdom, there are estimated to be over 100,000war memorials. They were, and still are today, erected by communities and in the majority of cases via public subscription as a means for communities to focus their grief and provide a means of Remembrance because so many who died or are classed as missing were never repatriated or have no known grave.
As I have discovered during my travels, many memorials are treasured, maintained and cared for with maintenance plans in place, but others are sadly neglected, vandalised or left to suffer the effects of ageing and weathering.
This is where the War Memorials Trust comes in. They want to ensure that each and every memorial is preserved and the memory of the individuals recorded, whether they be from past or present conflict, civilian or service personnel, remembered.
Who are the War Memorials Trust?
Back in 1997 an ex-Royal Marine, by the name of Ian Davidson, went to one of the Committee Rooms at the House of Commons to report on the ‘scandal’ of Britain’s war memorials.
Ian Davidson shocked those in attendance with his report that although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was doing a magnificent job caring for the graves and memorials to our war dead abroad (post 1914), no one – and no organization – took responsibility for the care of Britain’s war memorials at home, estimated to number more than 50,000 at the time.
As a fall out from this meeting, a new organisation known originally as Friends of War Memorials was formed, changing its name to War Memorials Trust in January 2005.
The War Memorials Trust works with communities, supporting them to provide care for their war memorials which remain a shared ongoing tribute and responsibility. They encourage best conservation practice giving the greatest chance of preserving the original war memorials as they were seen by those who lost loved ones. As current custodians we are acting today not just for ourselves but for those who went before, and will come after, us.
As a charity War Memorials Trust provides advice, offers grants and works with others to achieve its objectives. But it needs help as it relies entirely on voluntary donations to enable it to protect and conserve war memorials in the UK. Gifts, subscriptions, grants and in-kind contributions all assist the charity to achieve its aims and objectives.
The war memorial in the village of Great Dalby near Melton Mowbray commemorates 11 men of the village who died in the Great War and it was unveiled on 25 July 1920. In 2006 a project was undertaken on the memorial to restore it to its former glory. The fence surrounding the memorial needed to be repaired to ensure it was safe and the War Memorials Trust contributed £215 towards this work.
Egerton Lodge War Memorial Gardens are part of landscaped gardens surrounding Egerton Lodge, a grade II listed residential home for the elderly in Melton Mowbray.
In 2008, the War Memorials Trust gave a grant of £2,500 towards the restoration of the terrace. This included cleaning the balustrade and re-pointing the structure with lime mortar. Additionally, the tarmac surface of the upper terrace was replaced with stone paving. The York paving slabs had originally been used on the platform of the Great Northern Station on Scalford Road, Melton, until it’s closed in 1953. When the war memorial was restored in 2008/9, it was decided to use the stone labs on the upper terrace as it was deemed appropriate that those who gathered on the terrace to honour the towns fallen heroes would be standing on the same slabs as some of those who did not return may have stood during their embarkation when they went off to war.
The War Memorials Trust also relies on the efforts of volunteer Contributors to report on the condition of war memorials around the country. These volunteers used to be called Regional Volunteers and they looked after the memorials in their County but that volunteering scheme has now ended as more and more members of the public are also contributing.
If you want to get involved in any way, to help protect and conserve our nation’s war memorial heritage, you can join the Trust as a member. Members donate either an annual subscription of £20 or make a one-off payment of £150 for life membership.
Alternatively, you can get involved by volunteering and reporting on the condition of our war memorials. You can do this by registering online with their War Memorials Onlinewebsite and then submit photos and condition reports of any war memorials you come across.
In addition to the War Memorials Trust, there are other organisations that help look after War Memorials such as the Imperial War Museum who maintain the War Memorials Register.
Another great organisation is Historic England who provide great advice via their series of downloadable publications providing advice and guidance on preserving war memorials. See their website for more information.
If you’re based in Scotland, then the Historic Environment Scotland website provides similar advice for Scottish memorials. See their website for more information.
And for those of you in Wales, the CADW website also provides information relating to Welsh memorails.
If you are responsible for a war memorial that is metal, did you know that you can help protect it witht he uese of smart water should it be stolen. See the In Memoriam 2014 website for further information.
I would recommend that before entering into a contract with any commercial company regarding the cleaning of your war memorial, I would visit the websites of the War Memorials Trust or English Heritage or the equivalent for Scotland and Wales and seek their advice in the first instance.
Sadly, some war memorials are in danger of being lost due to the closure of Churches, Chapels, Factories, and Schools with some building being demolished or others closed or converted into domestic accomodation.
Not always will any war memorials be preserved and unfortunately, some end up being destroyed, dumped in skips or even sold to the scrap man!
Luckily, local organisations such as the Leicester City, County & Rutland At Risk War Memorials Project exist to preserve the war memorials and their aim is “to keep them safe” by taking those at risk into their custody, but wherever possible they try and relocate the memorial to another location within the community from where it came.
For more information about their work, please visit their website here.
If you have any questioins about war memorials, please don’t hesitate to send a message using the email address: email: email@example.com and I will try and help you or signpost onto a suitable organisation.
George Edward Flint was born on the 17th August 1888 in Kirby Bellars, Leicestershire. He was the son of James Flint a railway labourer, born 1861 in Frisby on the Wreake, Leicestershire, and his wife Emma Flint (nee Mann, married in the 4th quarter of 1885 in the Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire district), born 1863 in Long Itchington, Warwickshire.
George was educated in the British School, Melton Mowbray and upon leaving school he went to work in the office of Messrs. Sharman and Ladbury for about 12 months, then he started work for the Midland Railway Co as a booking clerk, first stationed at Ashwell then at Luffenham.
George volunteered to enlist in the Royal Navy to serve a 5 + 7 year engagement on the 12th September 1907. His medical examination recorded that he was 5 foot 6¼ inches in height and had a chest measurement of 35 inches, his hair colour was black and he had brown eyes, his complexion was described as fair, it was noted that he had moles on the left side of his chest and on his right forearm, he gave his trade or calling as clerk.
His record of service began when he joined HMS Victory, the accounting and holding Barracks for the Fleet sailing out of Portsmouth on 12th September 1907 as an Ordinary Seaman and he was allocated the service number SS/2110.
He was re-assigned from Victory to HMS Prince George on 30th October 1907 where he stayed until 31st March 1908. Prince George was recommissioned on 5th March 1907 to serve as the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth Division of the new Home Fleet which had been organised in January 1907. On 5th December 1907 she collided with the armoured cruiser Shannon at Portsmouth, sustaining significant damage to her deck plating and boat davits.
Following his assignment on the Prince George, he was re-assigned to HMS Duke of Edinburgh, joining the ships company on the 1st April 1908. The Duke of Edinburgh was assigned to the 5th Cruiser Squadron from 1906 to 1908 and was then transferred to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Channel Fleet. When the Royal Navy’s cruiser squadrons were reorganized in 1909, the Duke of Edinburgh re-joined the 5th Cruiser Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet. Whilst serving with the Duke of Edinburgh, George was promoted to Able Bodied Seaman, staying part of her company until 14th March 1910.
On the 15th March 1910, George was assigned back to HMS Victory at Portsmouth until 31st May 1910.
From the 1st June, he was assigned to HMS Jupiter. Jupiter was the flagship of the Home Fleet Portsmouth Division from February to June 1909 and later second flagship of the 3rd Division. During this service, she underwent refits at Portsmouth in 1909–1910, during which she received fire control equipment for her main battery.
On 26th June 1910, he was allocated a new service number J/8281 and continued his service abord HMS Jupiter until 28th October 1910.
George was assigned to HMS Britannia on 29th October 1910. Britannia was a King Edward VII-class pre-dreadnought battleship, named after the Latin name of Great Britain under Roman rule. The ship was built by Portsmouth Dockyard between 1904 and 1906. Armed with a battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) and four 9.2 in (234 mm) guns,
George’s next assignment commenced on 15th October 1912 to HMS Excellent at the Whale Island Gunnery School where he went to gain experience in gunnery.
Following his successful completion of his gunnery courses, he joined HMS Dreadnought on 1st July 1913. Dreadnought was the battleship that became synonymous with revolutionising naval power due to the advance in naval technology that her name came to be associated with and an entire generation of battleships, the “dreadnoughts” were a class of ships named after her.
Dreadnought became flagship of the 4th Battle Squadron in December 1912 after her transfer from the 1st Battle Squadron, as the 1st Division had been renamed earlier in the year. Between September and December 1913 Dreadnought was training in the Mediterranean Sea.
George was re-assigned from Dreadnought back to HMS Victory I at Portsmouth where he stayed until 28th May 1914.
Following this stint at the shore base Victory, George was next assigned to HMS Psyche on the 29th May 1914. HMS Psyche carried a complement of 224 and was armed with eight QF 4-inch (25 pounder) guns, eight 3 pounder guns, three machine guns, and two 18-inch (450-mm) torpedo tubes. Psyche was part of the Pelorus class ships that displaced 2,135 tons and had a top speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). Most served in minor roles on overseas or colonial patrol work, not with the main battlefleets.
Whilst aboard HMS Psyche, he was despatched to the naval station at New Zealand where he is involved in training the naval men of that colony. When the outbreak of hostilities, the Psyche, along with other British Warships and units of the Japanese Navy were involved in the endeavour to round up the ‘notorious’ German raider, the Emden.
SMS Emden spent most of her career overseas in the German East Asia Squadron, based in Tsingtao, China. At the outbreak of World War I, Emden captured a Russian steamer and converted her into the commerce raider Cormoran. Emden rejoined the East Asia Squadron, then was detached for independent raiding in the Indian Ocean. The cruiser spent nearly two months operating in the region, and captured nearly two dozen ships. On 28 October 1914, Emden launched a surprise attack on Penang; in the resulting Battle of Penang, she sank the Russian cruiser Zhemchug and the French destroyer Mousquet. On 15 August 1914 HMS Psyche, HMS Pyranus and HMNZS Philomel were escorts for the troopships Monowai and Moeraki which had been requisitioned from the Union Steam Ship Company as transports for the Samoan Expeditionary Force which departed Wellington for Apia with 1385 troops. The naval party brought about the surrender of the German occupied Samoan islands.
Two picket boats from Australia swept the channel as a precaution before the transports entered. The Union flag was hoisted at 12.45pm and the landing of the troops commenced at 1.00pm. At 8.00 am on Sunday 30th August the British Flag was hoisted over the Courthouse and a proclamation read by Colonel R. Logan ADC, NZSC, the Officer Commanding the Troops, in the presence of Naval and Military Officers and men, Native Chiefs and the residents of Apia. A salute of 21 guns was fired by Psyche.
The “Auckland Weekly News” published a pictorial about the surrender with Seaman Gunner Flint featuring in several of the images. Flint was one of the boat’s crew that took officers of the Psyche to the landing stage at Apia on August 29th under a white flag, with a despatch to the German governor demanding surrender of the islands. George was also shown in another image where the Union Jack was being hoisted up the flagpole of the Apia Court House on the morning of the 30th.
Upon the Psyche along with the Pearl Class cruiser HMNZS Philomel being handed over to the New Zealand Naval Department, the crews were taken by a P&O ship to the Suez where Seaman George Flint joined the company of HMS Swiftsure on the 9th January 1915.
Swiftsure and her crew took part in the defence of the Suez Canal when the Turks had tried to cross it. Following this abortive attempt, George was one of her crew that assisted in the burial of over three hundred Turks.
From the Suez, the Swiftsure then moved onto the Gallipoli Peninsua taking part in the landings of British, Australian and New Zealand troops at the now infamous historic ANZAC cove.
The Swiftsure was firing her guns until they were red hot covering the landing troops and when a lot of wounded soldiers trying to land on the beaches were seen in difficulties in the water, George and some of his shipmates left their gun battery to assist them.
George and his shipmates were working up to their necks in the water trying to save the wounded soldiers, resulting in him contracting a sever chill which subsequently turned into pulmonary consumption (tuberculosis).
In spite of falling sick he continued to perform his duties and witnessed the sinking of the Irresistible, Ocean, Triumph, and the French ship Bouvet, his own ship the Swiftsure being only narrowly missed by a torpedo which was fired at it from a submarine.
He was initially transferred to the hospital at Malta, then transferred again to Haslar Hospital in Portsmouth where he stayed until 9th July 1915 when he was invalided from the service.
After being discharged from the Service, he was transferred to the new Leicestershire Sanatorium at Mowsley near Market Harborough. Around the 26th January 1916, he was transferred to his parents home in Melton where he stayed until he passed away peacefully.
After being discharged from the Service, he was transferred to the new Leicestershire Sanatorium at Mowsley near Market Harborough which had recently been built during 1914-15 to hold fifty patients suffering from tuberculosis.
Around the 26th January 1916, he was transferred to his parents home in Melton where he stayed until he passed away peacefully.
His funeral took place on Saturday 12th February 1916 where the inhabitants of Melton Mowbray turned out in thousands last Saturday afternoon to pay homage to a local sailor who had given up his life in the service of his country.
Owing to the absence of Bluejackets in the Melton neighbourhood, Mr. A. E. Mackley, one of the local civilian recruiting sergeants made the necessary arrangements for full military honours to be accorded.
By the kindness of Colonel R. S. Goward, the services of the band of the 3/5th Leicestershire Regiment were secured and the bearers, a firing party, and a bugler were supplied from the Wigston Barracks – the Headquarters of the Leicestershire Regiment.
The Melton St. John Voluntary Aid Detachment under the command of Captain S. C. Hobson, also attended, as did likewise a contingent of 16 men from the Melton Farriery School under Sergt. T. Bugg, of the Duke of Wellington’s.
A few men were drawn from each Corps to represent the R.F.A., R.G.A., A.S.C., R.E., and Infantry. Lieut. Paget attended as representing the Leicestershire Yeomanry, and Sergt. Biddle, from the local recruiting office, was in charge of the bearers, the firing party being under Sergt. Grant.
The coffin was placed on an open hearse, and was covered with the Union Jack, on top of which deceased’s white naval cap was deposited. The body was taken to the Congregational Church, where the first portion of the service was read, the Rev. E. Williams officiating.
There was a crowded congregation amongst whom were noticed Mr. Josiah Gill, J.P., and Dr. Hugh Atkinson. The service was choral, the hymn “Nearer my God to Thee,” being feelingly sung, and Mr. Riley Brown, who officiated at the organ played suitable voluntaries. As the cortege wended its way from the Church to the Thorpe-road cemetery the band played the Dead March in “Saul.”
The streets were lined with spectators, and an enormous crowd assembled at the cemetery. After the coffin had been lowered into the grave the firing party fired three volley’s, and the bugler sounded the Last Post.
George is buried in Section J, Grave Reference 2120 at Thorpe Road Cemetery, Melton Mowbray. Even though this is a CWGC grave, the family chose to erect their own memorial in place of the CWGC headstone. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Casualty Record can be seenhere.
In 1913, Georges brother David James Flint married Sarah A Gunby and on the 19th May 1917, they had a son and named him George Edward Flint. When the 1939 register was taken, George was living at 22 Snow Hill with his parents and his brother Arthur. George was listed as a bricklayer, the same as his father David, and Arthur as an Apprentice Joiner.
In 1940, George married Florence A Woolley and in 1942 they had a daughter Margaret. At some point after 1939, George enlisted in the army serving as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. George died on 21 January 1944 and is also buried in Thorpe Road Cemetery, Melton Mowbray. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Casualty Record can be seen here.
Richard William Wicks was born on the 3rd May 1905 at the family home, No 4 Springfield Road, Preston, Nr Brighton, Sussex. His mother was Ellen Louisa (Nee Offen) and his father, whom he was named after was Richard William Wicks who was a photographer.
At the time of the 1911 census, the family were residing at 2 Manwood Road, Grafton Park, Lewisham, London SE. Richard senior was listed as a photographer and also in the household was Ellen, the mother, Nellie (aged 9), Nora (aged 8), Richard junior now aged 5 and Minnie, aged 2.
Just a few months before Richards sixteenth birthday, he joined the Royal Navy on the 10th February 1921 as a Boy II Rating serving on HMS Ganges, the Royal Naval Training Establishment at Shotley, near Ipswich, where he stayed until 11th April 1922.
Following completion of shore training, Richard was transferred to HMS Queen Elizabeth, the dreadnought battleship that was the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet as a telegraphist.
After completing just over 2 years on the Queen Elizabeth, Richard was assigned to HMS Victory I at Portsmouth, another shore training establishment from 17th May 1924 to 30th June 1924. He was then re-assigned to HMS Champion from 1st July to 14th August 1924, after which he returned to Victory I until 1st July 1925.
On the 2nd July 1925, he was transferred to HMS Effingham, a Hawkins class heavy cruiser. He remained part of her company until 11th November 1926.
After his stint on Effingham, he returned to Victory I until the end of the month, due to being Commissioned wef 1st Dec 1926. As a trainee Officer, Richard undertook a variety of courses at HMS Victory, RN College Greenwich, HMS Vivid and HMS Defiance.
Following completion of his training in Dec 1927, he was assigned to HMS Emperor of India an Iron Duke Class battleships serving with the Atlantic Fleet. He remained part of this ships company until 29th September 1928.
On 12th July 1928, he had expressed an interest in transferring to the Fleet Air Arm and his Captain responded as follows: “C.O. states he is unable to grant W/K Best. at present owing to his small experience of upper deckwork. Has done very well and shows excellent promise. Capt W F Sells.“
Whilst serving on the Emperor, Richard married Hilda Bowditch on the 28th July 1928 at the Lewisham Registrar Office.
His service records show that he passed the RAF medical test on the 3rd Sept 1928 which was followed by him being attached to the RAF, under AFO 307/28, with effect 30th September 1928 and transferred to RAF Base Gosport on 13th May 1929.
Richard remained at Gosport until 5th Jan 1930, when he was assigned to HMS Furious which was a modified Courageous Class battlecruiser converted into an aircraft carrier. Her usual compliment of aircraft consisted of one flight of Fairey Flycatcher fighters, two of Blackburn Blackburn or Avro Bison spotters, one Fairey IIID spotter reconnaissance and two flights of Blackburn Dart torpedo bombers, each usually of six aircraft.
On the 16th Jan 1930, he passed his final deck landing and became qualified as a pilot.
On the 15th April 1930, he was assigned to HMS Glorious which was recommissioned on 24 February 1930 for service with the Mediterranean Fleet, but was attached to the Home Fleet from March to June 1930.
According to his service records, he was injured in air accident on on 15th Jan 1931, his injury was recorded as not serious but there is no mention of what the aircraft was.
The Flight Magazine of 4th Jan 1934 contained the list of RAF half yearly promotions and it confirmed that Richard William Wicks (Lieut RN) was promoted from Flying Officer to Flight Lieutenant. This is also confirmed in the Royal Navy List issued 1st Oct 1935 which shows his promotion wef 1st Jan 1934.
On the 2nd March 1937, The London Gazette contained the following entry “Lieut. Richard William WICKS, R.N., is re-attached to the Royal Air Force as a Flight Lieutenant with effect from 19th Feb.1937 and with seniority of 1st Jan. 1934.”
On the afternoon of Monday 15th March 1937 at 4:30PM, Melton Mowbray & District was enveloped in darkness. A severe blizzard and low, heavy clouds formed a complete blackout. Ten minutes later it had ceased snowing and the sky was bright again.
During those ten minutes, two RAF planes, passing over Melton, lost their bearings in the storm. They were flying low. A few seconds later, one of the machines was a complete wreck. The engine and cockpit were buried some eight feet in a field near Saxelbye, and the head of the pilot, who must have been killed instantly, could be seen protruding through the mass of debris. He was bare headed and around his neck was a red, white and blue scarf. The deceased pilot was Richard Wicks.
The aircraft were Blackburn Shark II’s from the RAF 11 Fighter Group at Gosport. The only piece of fabric that had survived the impact bore the identification number K43453. A wheel of the undercarriage was lying some thirty yards away while it was obvious from the stench of petrol that the tank had burst when the machine crashed.
Mr T Morris, of Manor Farm, Saxelbye, heard the machines and saw that one was in difficulties. Later he saw it nose dive into the field. He dashed to the scene and realising that it was hopeless to make any attempt to extricate the pilot, he telephoned Supt. Fotheridge, informing him of the tragedy. PC Neal was immediately sent out from Asfordby to investigate, being joined some fifteen minutes later by Supt Fotheridge and Sgt Jones.
The plane was a complete wreck, the engine, cockpit and pilot being embedded in a confused mass well below the surface of the ground. Although spades were brought, digging operations were too heavy a task to be worth even attempting. Until the arrival of suitable mechanism, all that could be done was to gaze on in despair.
The difficulties of recovering the pilot’s body were added to by darkness, thick fog, and the saturated condition of the land. Later in the evening, a breakdown gang from the Midland Garage was brought to the scene and under considerable difficulties driven to within a few yards of the wreckage. In the glare of its headlights and the feeble light shed by hurricane lamps brought from neighbouring farms, a twelve foot tripod, fitted with block and pulley was erected and with the assistance of some hundred villagers, attempts were begun to haul the wreckage out of the ground, to enable the pilots body to be released. For over four hours, this herculean task was carried out. Parts of the machine were raised with the pulley and lengthy tow ropes, manned by villagers who had flooded to the scene, pulled the wreckage clear.
When the heaviest of the debris had been removed, Sgt Jones was able to recover from the clothing of the pilot documents from which it was hoped means of identification would be obtainable. The pilots body was eventually released on the instruction of the Melton Coroner to the Melton War Memorial Hospital mortuary with identification “Lieut. R.W.Wicks RAF Base Southampton”.
At the subsequent inquest, Herbert Walter Brook, the NCO in charge of C Flt Training Squadron RAF Station detached at Southampton said that on the morning of 15th March 1937 he instructed the mechanics to do an inspection on the aircraft K4353, Lieut Wicks machine, and it was certified as airworthy. This was carried out and the engine ran satisfactorily on the ground test. “I myself certified the machine as airworthy after the inspection” he said. In reply to the coroner, he said that when the machine started at 10:10am he was satisfied that it was perfectly airworthy. It was not a brand new machine, but had been reconditioned in October. Corroborative evidence was given by William Shellick, an aircraftsman and one of the mechanics who examined the machine. Evidence was given that the machine was replenished with petrol and oil at Brough in company with 5 other machines. They left the aerodrome, one after another at about 4 o/clock.
Anthony John Trumble, Pilot Officer, Royal Air Force Base, stationed at Southampton, detached from Gosport, said that he left Brough in a similar machine about five minutes after Lieut. Wick’s machine had gone and joined it in formation over the Humber. “About 35 minutes after leaving Brough we ran into a thick snowstorm”. “I remember passing Newark but as we were flying in formation I was not doing navigation.” Trumble told the coroner that the snowstorm was intensely thick and that there were three of them in the first case, but they became separated. They were only flying together for a minute after entering the snowstorm- probably less. He went on to say “I did not know there had been an accident until the next morning”.
The pilots widow, Mrs Hilda B Wicks, of Timsbury Somerset, gave evidence of identifying the body. She told the inquest “Her husband was 31 years of age. He was a Flt Lt in the Fleet Air Arm of the RN. I last saw him on 11th February when he was home on leave”.
Richard Wicks was given a funeral with full military honours and was buried at Thorpe Road Cemetery, Melton Mowbray. The coffin was draped in a Union Jack and was carried to the cemetery on a Royal Air Force goods trailer. The standard bearer party consisted of six RAF Sergeants from Grantham, and the service was conducted by Canon P. Robson, Vicar of Melton Mowbray.
The funeral was attended by the widow Mrs Hilda B Wicks, Miss M Wicks (sister), and Mr & Mrs H P Morris. The Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Coastal Command, was represented by Lieut.V.C. Grenfell, R.N. Others present were Lieut Commander Shattock, R.N. (Gosport), Group Capt Iron and Flight Lieut. Langston of Grantham RAF Depot.